Northern Virginia Enters Phase Two Friday: Here’s What That Will Look Like

As Northern Virginia localities prepare for the second reopening phase on Friday, here’s what people can expect.

Northern Virginia and the City of Richmond delayed entering phase two when the rest of Virginia started the phase last Friday (June 5). Gov. Ralph Northam said that trends of COVID-19 data indicate that Northern Virginia is ready for the next phase.

Here’s a snapshot of the phase two guidelines:

  • “safer at home” guidance, telework encouraged
  • face coverings required in indoor public places
  • social gathering maximum raised from 10 to 50
  • restaurants can have indoor dining at 50% occupancy
  • fitness centers can open indoor spaces at 30% occupancy
  • indoor and outdoor swimming pools can open
  • still closed: overnight summer camps, indoor entertainment venues, amusement parks, fairs and carnivals

Museums, zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens and outdoor concerts, sports and performing arts venues may open with some restrictions as long as they don’t have shared equipment.

“All businesses should still adhere to physical distancing guidelines, frequently clean and sanitize high contact surfaces, and continue enhanced workplace safety measures,” the plan says.

Meanwhile, phase two continues current guidelines for religious services, non-essential retail and personal grooming services, according to the plan.

School Schedule

Northam also unveiled yesterday his phased plan to reopen K-12 schools.

“I know that parents are very interested in our plans for how to safely return children to our classrooms,” Northam said.

Previously, Northam closed schools on March 23 for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. “I believe these closures have helped mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” he said.

Northam said that the plan will let schools “slowly” offer in-person classes for the summer and 2020-2021 school year.

“We’ll start with small groups, and we will allow each school division the flexibility that it needs to respond to the needs of its own locality,” Northam said, adding that the plan provides schools with options instead of serving as a mandate.

In every phase, the schools must follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including daily health screenings of students and staff, remote learning and working options for high-risk students and staff, required face coverings for staff — and encourage used for students — when social distancing isn’t an option.

More about the plan from Northam’s website:

The K-12 phased reopening plan was developed by the Office of the Secretary of Education, Virginia Department of Health, and the Virginia Department of Education and is informed by guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

All PreK-12 schools in Virginia will be required to deliver new instruction to students for the 2020-2021 academic year, regardless of the operational status of school buildings. The PreK-12 guidance is aligned with the phases outlined in the Forward Virginia blueprint and provides opportunities for school divisions to begin offering in-person instruction to specific student groups…

Local school divisions will have discretion on how to operationalize within each phase and may choose to offer more limited in-person options than the phase permits, if local public health conditions necessitate. Entry into each phase is dependent on public health gating criteria, corresponding with the Forward Virginia plan. School divisions will have flexibility to implement plans based on the needs of their localities, within the parameters of the Commonwealth’s guidance.

The opportunities for in-person instruction in each phase are as follows:

  • Phase One: special education programs and child care for working families
  • Phase Two: Phase One plus preschool through third-grade students, English learners, and summer camps in school buildings
  • Phase Three: all students may receive in-person instruction as can be accommodated with strict social distancing measures in place, which may require alternative schedules that blend in-person and remote learning for students
  • Beyond Phase Three: divisions will resume “new-normal” operations under future guidance

Beginning with Phase Two, local divisions and private schools must submit plans to the Virginia Department of Education that include policies and procedures for implementing Virginia Department of Health and CDC mitigation strategies.

State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, MD, MA has issued an Order of Public Health Emergency that requires all Virginia PreK-12 public and private schools to develop plans that demonstrate adherence to public health guidance. Public schools must also outline plans to offer new instruction to all students regardless of operational status.

Graph via Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam

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